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Rules for DTV Converter Box Subsidy to Be Released Monday

The final rules for the government's DTV converter box subsidy are being released Monday, according to the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, which is overseeing the program.

NITA has been under increasing heat from the Hill and some at the FCC to get the rules out, but the rules were actually submitted to the Office of Management and Budget, which had to vet them before they could be released.

The government is providing coupons redeemable toward the price of a converter box that will allow analog sets to pick up DTV signals. Feb 17, 2009 is currently the last day that TV stations will be allowed to broadcast in analog.

NTIA has not said what it concluded in the final rules now being vetted, but it proposed that the program, in which $40 coupons toward the boxes are distributed to consumers, be eligible only to analog-only households and on a first come, first served basis. That approach would exclude analog-only sets in cable or satellite households and could mean that the money runs out before everyone who needs a box gets one.

It has also proposed having the coupons expire within three months of either mailing or receipt, and has talked about both a paper and electronic version of the coupon.

Some in Congress are concerned that unless the program includes all affected viewers, they could face a constituent revolt, while others worry about the possibility of mismanagement or abuse of the subsidy program if it is too large or open ended.